Archive for the ‘Work and Professional Development’ Category

Summer Reading, Social Action

Monday, June 25th, 2012

I was well into Joan C. Willams’s Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter when Anne-Marie Slaughter's piece in the Atlantic,Why Women Still Can't Have it All hit the stands. Like Slaughter, who left her position as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department to rejoin the faculty at Princeton University, I would have to agree that academia provides the kind of flexibility often necessary to combine family and career successfully. Still college and university campuses are no panacea. Mary Ann Mason and Marc Goulden, Mason, Goulden and Nicholas Wolfinger, and Cheryl Geisler and Deborah Kaminskiare among those who argue that women’s advancement in academia continues to be negatively impacted by childbearing and childcare responsibilities.

My own climb up the faculty ladder of success has been slowed considerably by the time “off” required to bear my four children, nurse and nurture them, educate and otherwise care for and prepare them to become stalwart members of our community. But the ladder has not been pulled out from under me.

I am among the relatively few lucky ones. Williams argues that s0me of my less fortunate sisters have been pushed “off,” or out of work, by discriminating and inflexible workplaces that persist in functioning as if employees with children all have someone else available – more rather than less full time – to care for their progeny. Unlike Slaughter, among many others, whose reference point is a well-educated, affluent mother whose spouse can easily bear the responsibility of being the sole wage-earner when she “opts out” of her career, Williams also considers working class women, and men who are committed as much to family as to a job or career.

Currently, more than half of the American workforce is female, and most of them have children under 17. Considering social norms – particularly among religious conservatives, and in working class communities – still support the expectation that mothers belong at home with the kids, it is not surprising that more than half of working mothers feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children. Yet a majority of stay at home moms worry about not making a sufficient contribution to the family [income]! No wonder Williams argues that today’s workforce reflects a “mismatch between the workforce and the workplace.”

article-2102090-11C49DD1000005DC-828_306x387What to do?

  • Families matter. The section of Slaughter’s essay on “revaluing” family values is spot on. Employers need to realize that caring for children is at least as important as the many other “outside” activities their employees engage in. As a mother and a marathoner, I’d have to agree with Ms. Slaughter that taking care of children is far more challenging than training for a marathon.
  • Tame the schedule. Slaughter is not the first to suggest that the daily lives of working parents would be eased considerably if school schedules matched work schedules. In lieu of realizing that dream anytime soon, Williams offers up a number of ways in which employers might increase workplace flexibility to accommodate the demands that children’s schedules, and emergencies, make on working parents. These include making it easier to work from home, swap shifts, volunteer for mandatory overtime, and take vacation/sick/personal time.
  • We’re all in this together. The underlying theme of the current buzz over how to manage our desire for balanced lives that might include a fulfilling career and a satisfying family life is that none of us is alone. There is no denying that individual choices do affect overall productivity in the workplace. The challenge is to recognize that there are many ways in which individual employees might craft their lives to enhance productivity, and create the processes necessary for them optimize their life choices without taking undue advantage of one another, or jeopardizing the business operation as a whole.
  • Policy alternatives. According to Williams, “The United States has the most family-hostile public policy in the developed world.” Every year, Working Mother magazine publishes lists of the 10 best companies for women to work for, and the top 100 companies in the nation in terms of their support for families.  The remaining 30 million business enterprises may need a swift – policy – kick in the pants.

We certainly have our work cut out for us.


Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic Article:

On the constraints on women’s so-called choice to work or not:

Working Mother’s best companies for women’s advancement:

Radical Activism, or Poor Choices?

Monday, May 21st, 2012

la-me-protest002_ly2rjopd"Radical activism" taking over the UC? I wish. Then I wouldn’t have found myself filling my brief scattered moments of otherwise free time today responding to an inane op-ed by the California Association of Scholars’ own John Ellis and Charles Geshekter that blames UC graduates’ failure to demonstrate they have learned anything “at school” to  unsubstantiated classroom-based recruitment to the Democratic dark side.

I’d ignore it, but I’ve encountered a frightening number of people who actually entertain the notion that a college education is naught but liberal brainwashing. In the interest of illumination, here’s my cursorily considered response to Ellis and Geshekter’s claims:

  • “Political activists want conformity.” The boys seem to forget that activists exist on the political right, as well as on the political left. They also fail to recognize that political orientation may not even matter. Conservatives can be tree huggers, and UC students tend to reject tuition increases, regardless of how they vote in Presidential elections.
  • “Democrats in the classroom have silenced the political right on UC campuses.” (Apparently, faculty who are Republicans do not similarly silence the Left in their classrooms.) In fact, faculty members’ political party identification has virtually nothing to do with the course approval process and catalog publication and dissemination. There is no evidence to support the claim that the dynamics of classroom discussion follow from the instructor’s politics; however, class discussion is very likely affected by subject matter covered in a lecture or seminar. Contrary to popular belief that arguments exist on “both” sides of any issue, there can be far more than two vetted scholarly positions to consider, or just one. For example, increasing temperatures are associated with climate change and the United States has expanded globally.
  • “Activism is contrary to education.” I could be the odd scholar-(environmental) activist out here, but I have yet to convert a single student to abandon modern urban/suburban life for the commune. That said, I have managed to encourage them to consider why someone might take such drastic action, as well as how an environmentalist might manage the contradiction inherent in becoming a parent and – gasp! – relying on a car for transportation. That said, there are precious few of us anyway. The pressure to publish for UC faculty is sufficiently intense that no strictly rational academic takes time away from research to recruit student activists. In many cases, the process of securing the golden ticket, read publication in peer reviewed journals, tempers the views as well as the behavior of scholars on the fast (tenure) track, and beyond.
  • Radicals …er, actually Democrats…are to blame when college students fail to learn. Ellis and Geshekter could be onto something here. There is arguably a relationship among democratic political identification, liberal education, and positive learning outcomes. According to Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s Academically Adrift, the students most likely to learn to think critically and reason analytically are those who take courses in the humanities and social sciences – precisely where Ellis and Geshekter locate all those radicals.

Still, I think it’s far more likely that students who don’t learn simply make poor choices – "in the academic courses they take, how much they are working outside the classroom, how much they are studying, how much they are partying."

What would Portland be without a Pub Crawl?

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

photo 32

Like I text my sibs, our first stop in Portland, where I’ve just arrived for a professional meeting, was  Cascade Brewing Barrel House. Cascade Brewing Company was established in 1998 by Art Larrance, who has been involved in Oregon’s craft beer industry since its inception; he co-founded one of the Oregon’s’s first microbreweries and the Oregon Brewers Festival. Cascade has developed a range of ultra-premium, oak barrel-aged, lactic-fermented Northwest Sour-style beers that are truly delicious. Think “beer-wine.”

(For the record, Parker indulged in Cascade’s home-brewed Root Beer; I enjoyed applause for having the temerity to take my son on – another – beer tour.)

A Monday…Like So Many Other Days

Monday, March 19th, 2012

This has been yet another one of those days that turned out entirely different than what I’d imagined.

I’m leaving tomorrow on a road trip to Portland for the annual meeting of the Western Political Science Association (WPSA) tomorrow. Naturally, I’d planned to take a long run, push most of my administrative duties and busy work into next week, and pack. I did not anticipate losing my driver’s license…

As a result, today’s agenda revolved around a trip to the DMV. My run was reduced to a quick 2-miles around the neighborhood. I effectively ignored any work unrelated to my upcoming meeting. Thank Buddha, I was able to get an appointment at our local DMV or I’d still be there! The line wrapped around the building on this unusually hot winter day, making me wonder why anyone would bother without an appointment – a sentiment my spouse regards as snobbish.

It’s nearly midnight and while my bags are packed, I’m far from ready to go. Tomorrow morning’s t0-do list could easily consume the day. It won’t. Like today, tomorrow’s agenda will be stripped of all that’s not absolutely necessary to get me and my traveling companion, almost-11-year-old Parker, on the road in time to make Redding, CA by bedtime.

Daddy Loves Me More!

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012


Because Maz is gone Monday-Thursday working out of town, I often have to run only on Friday-Sunday. Sam and I look forward to our runs every weekend, and Maz is more than willing to accommodate us both.  This is a view I caught while getting ready for my morning run.

I’m not really sure where I would fit into this picture…

First Day Back at Work.

Thursday, February 16th, 2012


Last week was my first day back at work – REI – since Everett was born. It was a short four-hour shift that went surprisingly well. There were no tears on my part, and I successfully pumped during my fifteen-minute break.  Maz, meanwhile, did a great job watching the baby, though he had a bit of a struggle with the bottle.  He managed to get Everett to take 2oz, but it took well over an hour to accomplish.

That night, I more than made up for the time I missed. Everett ate every hour from midnight to 5am! It turns out that there is a term for that behavior: Reverse Cycle. When a baby misses Mom, he makes up the missed time overnight! Who knew?!

Anyway, since I have a bit of a shopping habit, I didn’t waste anytime getting Everett a nice souvenir from REI.  Luckily Maz doesn’t mind my spending money on our little pride and joy.

A New Look at Almost Four Months Old!

Thursday, February 9th, 2012


This is the very first photo of my little Everett without oxygen. Tubes attached to the little guy’s nose have been part of almost every picture since he was born, until now.

Everett did have a few days in the hospital when he didn’t need oxygen, and that was wonderful. I remember he was just a few days old, maybe a week old, when he no longer needed it…It was the same day they took him off the lights for Jaundice. That was the very first time I was able to hold Everett for longer than 30 minutes! He was so small, not even 2.5 lbs and it was almost unheard of for such a little baby to go without oxygen so soon.

A short time, maybe five days, later, he was put back on…I remember the day and I cried.

Up until a few weeks ago, Everett always had some help breathing. It has been the biggest pain, but we all dealt with it knowing that the little “puff” he was getting was helping him.  I couldn’t tell you the amount of times we tripped over the cord, or Everett spit up through his nose and into the tube. He even tried to “eat” the tubing or put the tubing on top of his nose.

All I can say is that my little boy clearly comes alive in this picture.

Oh, please, let the Christmas festivities begin!

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Even if we manage to get the Christmas CDs out and the lights on the house over the Thanksgiving weekend, the Christmas season doesn’t begin in our home until I submit fall grades – usually the Tuesday after finals week. Or “tomorrow,” meaning that I am currently in the thick of finalizing grades for over 400 students.

Ugh! My graduate training and post-graduate experience combined are no match for this thankless task, which amounts to a migraine-inducing process of copying grades displayed on one Internet page (for each course) onto one of a series of pages for each course, including: “lecture,” “honors section,” “extension students,” and “independent studies,” all of which are complicated by the random appearance of students who have withdrawn or require special handling of some kind. To say that generating final grades sours my mood is putting it very lightly, indeed.

I’ve banned my  younger, home-schooled children from my office. (God only knows what we’ll document as “learning” for today!) And I am ignoring all but my teaching assistants’ emails because they alone are likely to forestall the litany of student queries and complaints to follow – just barely – the moment when I, finally, hit the “submit” button. I pray that this short blogging break, accompanied by a fresh cup of coffee, will be sufficient to revive and empower me for another hour or two.

If I can just get everything entered today, there’s a chance I’ll be able to approach reviewing grades, prior to submission, with a brighter mood and lighter spirit. Then, light and trim the tree, fire up the oven for Christmas baking, and let the festivities begin!


Monday, September 19th, 2011


I used to have a gratitude charm attached to my key ring to remind me of how fortunate I am to have the love and support of a large, extend family, broad circle of friends, colleagues, and neighbors, in addition to a challenging and fulfilling career that is more flexible than most and allows me to travel. Most recently, I spent a long weekend in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Although my trip included a whirlwind tour of the city, I was there to participate in a workshop on favelas – Rio’s infamous slums.

I was visiting Complexo da Mare, a conglomeration of favelas along the coast, when I encountered this young man preparing for a college entrance exam in calculus. He was studying in a community center library that was constructed by members of his community and intended to provide a space for Mare’s college-prep students. The center offers cursinhos, “little courses,” or test preparation classes. Because the quality of high schools attended by young people from the favelas is so low, completing a cursinho is critical for those who hope to gain university entrance.

Improving education and increasing the number of Mare’s young people who go to college is one of the key elements motivating community activists there. This fact is hardly surprising, given the association between education and income. Mare is home to 130,000 Brazilians who collectively experience the nation’s lowest per capita incomes. While most of those with jobs work outside of the complexo, residents staff a variety of  shops, restaurants, a health clinic, and schools. Others are engaged in the drug trafficking that has become synonymous with Rio’s favelas.

It’s a rough place, no doubt.

Yet it’s also an engaging one – rich and colorful, warm and inviting – despite the poverty. On Saturday afternoon, the streets were filled with people shopping, stopping for hair-cuts, and sitting down to lunch in eateries that spilled out of ground level “garages” into the street. Young couples walking hand-in-hand dodged motor-bikes and children racing. From my side-walk viewpoint, I could see women hanging out the clothes to dry and watched a group of men constructing another level of a characteristically substandard live-work space. I couldn’t help thinking that there’s a good case to be made that while the residents of Mare lack much in terms of healthy, physically safe, and secure living conditions, they share an enviable sense of community.

For a moment, I even thought, “I could live here.” I was certainly content to linger after lunch, people-watching.

Experiences like this one underscore my gratitude for the life with which I’ve been blessed, one that has been rich not only in terms of income, but also – and more importantly – in terms of family, friends, and the communities of which I’ve been a part. The young man studying calculus is more prosperous than he may know. My money’s on him.

Saved by my Map App

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

gm Once again, I was lost in a circumscribed location within 6 yards of my previous destination. If not for the Google Maps iPhone App I had the good sense to download, I might sill be wandering the UNLV campus in search of my car.

I left the afternoon plenary of the Collective Behavior and Social Movements workshop and headed decidedly in the direction of where I thought I’d parked – outside the Coffee Bean in a public lot across the street from the university. 20 minutes later, I was standing outside the stadium, with the vague sense that I was parked kitty corner through a mass of construction. Passing UNLV maintenance workers confirmed my predicament before suggesting an alternative route.

Off I went, sipping iced coffee as walked barefoot across a grassy quadrangle. Then it hit me. “Duh, Jules, use your map app to find the Coffee Bean.” I located the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Maryland where I’d parked and set a course there from my current direction. The app marked my progress along my modified route (in the shade across campus, rather than along the campus perimeter – it was pushing 100 degress!) right to my car.

Cheers to the foreseeing Gods of technology!